Monday, 30 November 2015

Feature: Billy Lockett (30/11/15)


Billy Lockett is an indie / alternative pop singer-songwriter from Northampton, UK. Having played his way from the basement to the studio, whilst captivating fans from YouTube to shows up and down the country whilst supporting Lana Del Rey, Nina Nesbitt, KT Tunstall, Birdy, Lucy Rose and many more, it's no surprise that Billy's been attracting attention from some of the biggest names in the industry. With two singles backed by Radio 1 in the past, the only way is up for Billy and his music...

General Questions:

1. How old were you when you started getting involved in music and how?

I first started getting involved in music when I was eight, jamming on the piano with my Dad's band.

2. What is the most inspiring musical performance you've ever seen?
The most inspiring musical performance I've ever seen was Radiohead at Reading Festival. It blew my mind!

3. Who have you been listening to lately?
I've been listening to a lot of Oh Wonder and Frances recently, both incredible!

3 Qs for Billy:

1. What do you hope people gain from your music?

I think most importantly I hope people like the music, I think with my sound you either get it or you don't but either way, I hope the honest comes across. I'm not trying to be anything I'm not, and I think you can hear in my voice that I mean what I'm singing about. I love the sound and style of the music and hopefully that can also reach others the way it's reaching me.

2. You've said your forthcoming EP 'Burn It Down' has been the hardest to make by far, why do you think you found it harder compared to your previous releases?
I think this EP has been the hardest to make because I paid so much attention to detail with this, every word, part and production has been thought intensely about. Before I used to look past the detail and settle for the good, but with this new sound I have made sure the music is EVERYTHING. I hope it comes across in the music.

3. What process did you go through creating the title track 'Burn It Down' and what were your main influences, musically and lyrically?
'Burn It Down' is all about starting again for the better. It's about how going along with something because you've been doing it a long time, it can be destructive and sometimes it's better to stop completely even if it means starting from scratch with something new. I related this to my career although it can easily be related to relationships.

Random Q:

Three things you can't live without?

Sex, piano, cat.

'Burn It Down' Review:
The title track from Billy's next EP 'Burn It Down' is beautiful. His vocals are stunning and powerful over the accompaniment of the piano, and gradually build with the steady beat underlining certain notes. The music video works alongside the song perfectly, bringing the song to life even more. I really cannot wait to hear the rest of Billy's EP, if this is song is anything to go by, it's going to be absolutely fantastic. 



See Billy Live:
25th March: Gullivers, Manchester
26th March: Nice N' Sleazy, Glasgow
28th March: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
29th March: Louisiana, Bristol
30th March: Borderline, London

Billy Lockett's Links:
Tickets (March Tour): http://www.billylockett.blogspot.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/billylockettmusic
Twitter: https://twitter.com/billylockett
YouTube: www.youtube.com/officialbillylockett
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/official-billy-lockett

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Friday, 27 November 2015

Spotlight: Body of Songs (27/11/15)


Body Of Songs is a groundbreaking music and science experiment that brings together Britain's most talented musicians to create a remarkable collection of songs, inspired by our inner workings; the organs of the body. With a line-up of incredible artists and bands including Bat For Lashes, Goldie, Ghostpoet, and Andreya Triana to name a few. Curated by Gemma Cairney (BBC Radio 1), Llewelyn Ap Myrddin (composer) and Beth Clayton, the album is released today (27th November 2015). 

'Body Of Songs' Album Review:
This is a wonderfully creative collection of songs, which not only shows the talent of musicianship, but the detail of research and interest that goes into their work. Andreya Triana opens the album with 'Branches Of Life', a track about lungs, I think this is one of my highlights from the release, with Andreya's beautiful, soulful vocals leading the way underlined by scientific influence to the drum beat, dramatic instrumentation and the strings offer a delicate touch to the overall spacious sound. 
'Grateful Heart' by Dave Okumu, uses a heart beat within the instrumentation, and is built as an atmospheric, intense, haunting electronica track with distanced vocals. Eight minutes of pure brilliance. Afrikan Boy, Bumi Thomas and Adio collaborate on 'Eje Aiye' ('Life Of Blood' / 'Blood Life'), they incorporate medical sounds, gritty echoing beats and rap; lyrically this track stands out and is incredible clever. 
'Nose Song' by Sam Lee and Llewelyn Ap Myrddin has a positive, mysterious and magical feel to it, reflecting all the unknown uses and connections with our nose... Ghostpoet's 'A Plateful Of Liver' is wonderfully intense and has a focus on electronica with reverbed vocals. 'Follow Me Through' is brilliantly creative, so much goes on throughout this track, and the narrative is highlighted by Maya Carlyle and Max De Wardener, as they focus on the filtration system of the kidneys. 'Play, Pause & Rewind' is another favourite of mine from the release, a funky and catchy track from Scrufizzer & Utters, about the larynx and voice box... I think even if you took the focus away from the organs, there would still be an important underlying message from the lyrics. 
Bat For Lashes' 'Skin Song', is another lyrically fantastic addition to the collection, yet another one that stands out to me. 'Electric Abyss' is an electronic, steady track and another long one, but near impossible to get bored of. Focusing on the memory and sensory functions of the brain, you know there's a lot going on. The collection comes to a close with '(Ooh Ahh) Carolina' by Raf from The 2 Bears' it's a chilled one to finish on. Overall, a wonderful musical creation, full of tracks from incredibly talented musicians, I've listened to some of these tracks too many times to count over the last couple of days and I'll be surprised if it doesn't pick up some more much deserved attention. 


Body Of Songs' Links:

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Feature: Ummagma (26/11/15)


Ummagma consists of Shaun McLarnon, who hails from Canada's Yukon, and Alexander Kretov, who was originally from Ukraine, before moving to Canada. Now based in Peterborough, Ontario, Ummagma are following up their simultaneous 2012 LP releases, 'Antigravity' and 'Ummagma', with a release of their 'Frequency' EP; set for release on 4th December (2015). They've landed press coverage and radio play in more than 50 countries, now it's our turn to share their music with you and ask Shauna some questions about the world of music... 

General Questions:

1. How old were you when you started getting involved in music and how?
I was 26 by the time I realised I could even sing. That was when I was living in Russia's Siberia, doing research there in follow-up to my master's degree thesis. I just kind of 'found my voice' there - first I was singing covers of Sarah McLachlan, Irish traditional folk songs and whatnot, but then I started dreaming of songs in my sleep and recorded the melodies and ideas got from that and songwriting just been from that. I continued honing this craft while living back in Canada, then Russian again (Moscow this time) and then Ukraine... Now back in Canada. 

As for Alexx Kretov, my partner in Ummagma and in life, he studied at 'music school' (an awesome remix from the Soviet era) since he was a kid but finally only picked up a guitar for the first time when he was 12 or 13 I think. How he is able to play pretty much anything he picks up is beyond me though - certainly they don't teach you more than 2 instruments at such music schools. 

2. What is the most inspiring musical performance you've ever seen?
I think, for me, it's a tie between several - or maybe not. My love for some of them might be connected in part with the performance they gave and the overall feeling I got, in part due to the friends I was able to share the experience with. In any case, one of the most memorable for me was seeing Bjork live in Moscow's Olympic Stadium. That woman is the most impressive musical creature I've ever seen in my life... She stuns and thrills me and I admire her immensely. We are also both Northerners - she being from Iceland and I from the Yukon territory in Canada. That is a big inspiration from the North and seeing other talented people from the North make massive waves worldwide. 

But her performance there was so brilliant - amazing what one fire-fuelled woman can do to rouse tens of thousands of people. All her electronic compositions were flipping on her head and performed with a string orchestra, imported from Iceland as well, and her string-based tracks were transformed into an electronic bliss session. She kept everyone on their toes the whole time and played for nearly three hours. 

I also really enjoyed seeing Mogwai in Moscow, The Cure in Edinburgh, Dead Can Dance in Vancouver, Massive Attack (Elizabeth Fraser also travelled with them to appear at Moscow's Olympic Stadium for that concert), and going way back - seeing Crowded House in Ottawa, as well as the Montreal concerts of Sisters of Mercy, Front 242, Inspiral Carpets and Skinny Puppy. The list would surely be longer if I got out more... 

3. Who have you been listening to lately?
Oh so many bands truth be told. In the shoe gaze / dream pop camp there is Bloodhounds On My Trail (Australia), Stella Diana (Italy), Maff (Chile), Malka (NYC-Peru), and Lights That Change (Wales), The Virgance (UK), and Pure Phase Ensemble 4 ft. Mark Gardener (Poland-UK). The latter is a pretty massive deal, unbeknownst to many, as it's the first  showcase-genre release (space rock too) involving Mark Gardener since Ride split up back in the 1990s. This album is just massive, but seems to not have registered on most people's radar because they are so consumed with Ride's revival (which is, obviously, a massive new and awesome development in general). 

I also really love Novena (Italy) and can't go for more than a week without listening to something from his latest release. I also haven't heard the new album from Intenna (Indonesia), but really want to because they are so great. Also Spool (Japan). Also really looking forward to new releases from Clustersun (Italy), Mahogany (should be coming), and The Veldt (two of them coming - WOOHOO!!!) If you don't already know The Veldt (aka Apollo Heights), you likely were not around for the first wave of shoegaze in the early 90s - they were among the leaders on the US scene, at that time with numerous productions overseen by none other than Cocteau Twins' mastermind Robin Guthrie. Anyways, they are bound to make a comeback this year because they always rock and their sound is more original than most bands in the shoegaze scene, due to mixing all kinds of influences from RnB to ambient to dream-psych. Keep your eyes peeled for them. I'm also praying that Puna (Peru) will be releasing new music this year because this is aural silk for me. Both Alexx and I are also big fans of Sexores (Spain-Ecuador) and we can't wait for their coming LP. In our opinion, they make the most delicious dream gaze among modern-day bands.

In the indie rock camp there is My Cruel Goro (Italy), Stellarscope and Panophonic (both Philadelphia and both headed by the prolific Tom Lugo), and A Shoreline Dream (Colorado), who have a new single out but promise more coming soon in 2016. Of course, Tame Impala too. Ophiuco is the only trip hop in my playlist right now, without referencing bands from the early 90s worth recalling. 

I've been taking in a lot of synthpop and electronica bands too including Rodney Cromwell (London), Real Experts (score two for London with those two releases), A Copy For Collapse (Italy), Lunar Twin (Hawaii-USA), Meter Bridge and Vague Notion (both from Canada), and Hologram Teen, who is hard to pin down geographically because this is the solo project of Morgane Lhote, long-time former keyboardist for Stereolab during the key years of their development - she's obviously from France but has travelled around living in the UK and NYC and is now based in LA as far as I understand. She just released her debut single as a solo performer through London's Deep Distance label, so that's been on my playlist too. Rodney Cromwell's 'Age of Anxiety' is, in my opinion, the most awesome synth pop release of 2015, followed up by an extension of that - the 'Black Dog' EP. I'm also really looking forward to finally hearing his remix of Meter Bridge, which should come out shortly. 

After all that, I would really be lying if I were to say that Sounds of Sputnik and Ummagma are among the two top things I listen to still today. There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to hear your own music over and over and over, right? :) Really hoping others will want to as well, they can find a whole lot from both projects at: http://ummagma.bandcamp.com and http://soundsofsputnik.bandcamp.com

3 Qs for Ummagma:

1. Why / how did you decide to play the style and genre of music that you do?
We actually never decided to play any particular style and, if you go through our first two albums, you'll see that we actually cover about 8 or so genres (or sub-genres) - dream pop, indietronica, folk pop, space rock, showcase, synth pop, indie rock, ambient, ethereal wave with leanings towards prog and post rock. A mouthful, yeah? 
We're all over the board in life and in music, and we never limit ourselves by genre. We have a lot more stuff recorded than we've ever released and certainly not all of it even falls into the realms we are best known for playing. 
But we develop each separate release around a concept or framework of some kind and choose the songs for that release that best fit that message. 

2. What challenges have you faced creating music being based in Canada and Ukraine?
In Ukraine, things are not what they once were. It's hard to be in a positive headspace there, as we were during our relatively carefree space several years ago... But since then the country has been in turmoil - of course, since we were living there for such a long time and were still based there during all the related events, we also went through a negative transition, along with this country. Mass protest in Kyiv and other cities, then the Crimean invasion, occupation, and annexation, then all the warring that has been happening in Eastern Ukraine. The economy is shot, the local currency has devalued more than 300%. Everything has lost it's value, including property, labour, and not only. We had to leave. 
Well, in Canada, there are few obstacles of that nature. I'd say that the main limitation is time because unfortunately it seems that now we spend most of our time ensuring that we have enough income to make rent and cover utilities and food. Financial woes and related lack of time have been the biggest challenge here, for us in any case. On the bright side of things, I'm do happy to once again be in an atmosphere where not everybody is thinking of the war 24/7. So yeah, not your typical 'band challenges' likely, relative to other artists. 

3. What process did you go through creating 'Orion', musically and visually?
'Orion' was actually one of the first songs we ever created together and it was a fantastical process actually, at least in my own mind. Such great memories and emotions attached to this one. We had only been together as a couple for a short while by the time this one came about and we had just set up our first recording studio. It was an exciting time. All the lyrics I'm singing are about Alexx and his guitar playing us equally as embracing (me), all layered over his fantastical bubbly space synth in that track. 

Random Q:

A lyric / quote you live by?
I could certainly never reasonably wrap anything up in a quote, so I'll throw some lyrics at you, which somewhat reflects my need to stick to core values, and disgust with some of the attitudes observable nowadays. This kind of thought pattern is pretty recurrent for me and we remind ourselves constantly to not get caught up in useless, hollow or detrimental things and tendencies, and that we need to keep things real. These lyrics come from our song 'Human Factor', which you can find here: https://ummagma.bandcamp.com/track/human-factor

‘Seems we’re all out of time
Never quite a chance to unwind
Fighting fire, fighting it with fire
Just might get burned

Seems the more that we earn
The more that we spend
The less we’re concerned
About anybody but ourselves
And you think we’d learn

Find yourself on that line
Time for analyzing your life
Got to asking what could
Make you whole

It’s not the things that you buy
The clothes that you wear
The car that you drive
Not anything that can be bought or sold

Must be out of your mind
To scale down the human factor
Say it’s to make time for personal betterment
Of your soul
And you sure must be blind
If you can’t see before you
The consequences when human nature
Is traded for gold'. 

'Orion' Review:
An incredible atmospheric, spacey theme to both the track and the video; Alexx and Shauna flawlessly combine shoegaze, dream pop and electronica to create the fantastic 'Ummagma' sound. With otherworldly instrumentals and smooth harmonious vocals, this belongs on the soundtrack of the next big sci-film film. 


Ummagma's Links:

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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

What I'm Listening To... (25/11/15)

The last two months have seen lots of fantastic music releases, Adele has made a big return to the world of music and Justin Bieber has released an album that a lot of people like... I've been listening to a mix of these new tracks, old classics, and some slow sad music for inspiration and creative music evenings.

1. Say No More - Fickle Friends
Fickle Friends are a band to watch in 2016, creating infectious indie pop, this Brighton based five piece are making waves. I've had their latest track 'Say No More' on repeat since the video was released and I'm gonna try grab tickets to their tour next year. They're also supporting Little Comets at the launch night of 'Huw Stephen's Presents' at Dingwalls, London in February next year. It's set to be a pretty epic night, tickets are on sale now - so make sure you don't miss out! (http://myticket.co.uk/artists/huw-stephens-presents)



2. Combatti - Jack Pallister

I'm super lucky to have some really talented and inspiring friends; one of which is Jack Pallister. Over the last couple of months, Jack, Tom (other half of MIT Presents...) and I have been meeting up for meetings, jam sessions, live music and late night creativity. Seeing as I've featured some of Tom's music before, I thought I'd share my favourite song of Jack's (Donnie's Revival), as thanks to the boys it keeps getting stuck in my head and I've listened to it near on a hundred times in one or another...



3. Robbers - The 1975

Last night, (Tuesday 24th Nov), I headed to London with a few friends to see The 1975 live (again). I saw them just over a year ago at Alexandra Palace, but this time was at Eventim Apollo (better known as Hammersmith Apollo), and I felt like it was a better show than last time. I'm not sure, everything just went together and everyone was really there in the moment enjoying it. Also, live saxophone is definitely the one. This chorus (aside from Chocolate) was sung along to the loudest, and I've had it in my head, so enjoy...



4. Holes - LAYLA

This is one of the most comforting songs on my 'repeat' playlist. It's my go-to when I'm not feeling too great, and quite often it's a good 'late at night writing song' to listen to.  Jose Vanders (LAYLA & 1/2 of Oh Wonder) writes some truly beautiful songs, both lyrically and musically and I'm not sure this is just one of those I'll never get bored of listening to.



5. Million Years Ago - Adele

Adele is back and boy is she back! Everyone's taken to social media over the last couple of weeks to either rave (or rant) about her return. Personally, I really love her new album, it's refreshing for her to have some 'happier' songs on the release too, as well as the heart wrenching ballads that we all fell in love with originally. This is one of my favourites from the album and if you haven't listened to the album yet, you're missing out! (I can't link this particular song, as it isn't anywhere on the internet yet, but I'll leave you with the powerhouse vocals from 'When We Were Young' instead...)



6. View - PYLO

I'm surprised this one hasn't been included in a WILT blog post before (and if it has I'm sorry for being repetitive and forgetful). However, ever since I heard these guys when I was at Isle Of Wight Festival last year, I've fallen in love with this song a little. The music video is stunning as well as the song, so it's an all round wonder...



7. Brand New Day - Van Morrison

When I was younger, I was brought up on the likes of Van Morrison and Bill Withers. Listening to all the usual 'Brown Eyed Girl', 'Philosopher's Stone', 'Just The Two Of Us' and 'Grandma's Hands'. However, as I got older, I started listening around to more of their music and discovered my own favourites. 'Brand New Day' by Van Morrison is top of that list.



8. Run - Chasing Grace

After seeing this wonderful band at Barn on the Farm this year, I was reminded of how great their music is. Then time took over (and regrettably they got lost behind my everyday repeat playlist), however, the past couple of weeks, I've had 'Run' and 'Tonight' in that repeat playlist. This one in particular is a fantastic track and has constantly been stuck in my head.



9. When I Was Younger - Liz Lawrence

This is a new one to my playlists and a discovery I can give thanks to Spotify for. It's beautiful and I think there's a lot of truth in the words (I think everyone can connect with songs better when they can understand the meanings behind it etc.)  She's now part of Cash+David, another project I've been listening to a lot recently, so be sure to check their sounds out too! 



10. Jesus - Brand New

This has been in my favourites playlist for a very very long time, mainly because of the lyrics, but there's some brilliant instrumentation in it too. Recently I've been playing it a lot more, in the last couple of weeks, it's been played at least twice a day, and one day it saw up to 11 plays... Brand New are a fantastic band and this song highlights that. This is a live version, but the recorded version is pretty intense in my opinion - go get lost in some music...



11. Love Yourself - Justin Bieber
This is a name I didn't think I'd be including in one of these blog posts if I'm honest, I used to find his older material; sickly? However, this new album of his steps up maturity level wise, and sound wise and I've had it on repeat. There's the popular ones that have been making it into the charts, 'What Do You Mean?', 'Sorry' and 'The Feeling' ft. Halsey. However, I've had 'Love Yourself' on repeat, and it's probably because of the Ed Sheeran vibe to it, but you know what JB's done pretty good!


Love Yourself - Justin Bieber (link)


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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Feature: Felix Hagan & The Family (24/11/15)



Felix Hagan & The Family are a seven-piece, formed in 2012 and fusing punk, rock, pop and musical theatre into a seamless, high-energy blend of genres. Consisting of Felix Hagan (lead vocals), Ellie Cowan (backing vocals, occasional violin), Tash Hodgson (backing vocals, percussion), Tom Webber (lead guitar), Chris Hunsley (bass guitar), Joe Davison (keyboards) and Stuart Mann (drums), their hugely energetic performances have won them shows on festival stages up and down the country, as well as a high profile support slot with Frank Turner. They've just released their latest EP 'Kiss The Misfits', so we caught up with Felix for a Q&A about that and the rest of the world of music... 

General Questions:

1. How old were you when you started getting involved in music and how?
I was eight. And I was the terrible precocious rosy-cheeked cherub playing the theme from the Wobbles on the trumpet in the school concert. Then I started on the drums at 10 so I could REALLY start to annoy people. My first gig was aged 11, playing drums with a band of men in their fifties at a party on the Isle of Wight. It was the most exhilarating feeling I'd ever experienced. Then I got into guitar because my big brother played it (he's still way better than me), then the piano because we had one at home. Then I spent five years at school playing in the big band, the brass band, the orchestra, the choir, the musical theatre group and my own band of wide-eyed rock and roll dreamers. I wrote my first proper song at 13 and that was it, really. Cue stardom and fabulous wealth. 

2. What is the most inspiring musical performance you've ever seen?
I went to see Amanda Palmer do a special intimate gig at Village Underground in Shoreditch for her Kickstarter backers, of which I was one. 185 people in a huge, cavernous old factory space. She curated some awesome support acts, then we all sat on the floor as she toured us through a load of songs with her band, singing through a megaphone and playing the ukulele. Then the gig ended with us all writing messages in marker pen on her naked body. It was a show that managed to include moments of total euphoria, heartbreaking sadness and hysterical laughter. It was hugely theatrical and reply, bleedingly honest. And I'm still thinking about it three years later. 

3. Who have you been listening to lately?
I've been playing the new Enter Shikari record to death. It's the best produced record I've heard in ages. And it's mental. I love it. A friend of mine also recently turned me onto Run The Jewels, and their album 'Run The Jewels 2' is fucking dynamite. I also keep coming back to the New York Dolls Live at the Bowery record, which is just everything. Kate Tempest's album 'Everybody Down' is just perfect in every way. And thanks to going on a tour with Louis Barabbas I now can't stop listening to different cast recordings of the musical Oliver. 

3 Qs for Felix Hagan & the Family:

1. What decade inspires you the most and why?
Musically, I don't have any tangible time period for inspiration. I like to listen to everything I can find, from old Cole Porter shows from the depths of history to batshit strange hip-hop from last week. When I write a song. I want to be able to start with a battered acoustic guitar or a weird synth noise and everything in between. That way freedom lives, I think. 
Lyrically, the last 10 years. I tend to write quite autobiographically, and the last 10 years have seen me leave school, travel all over the world, go to performing arts school, drop out, get totally fucked up, go to rehab, get better, go to university, get married and have a child. So there's plenty of grist for the mill right there. 

2. What process did you go through creating 'Kiss The Misfits' both musically and visually?
I like to make my records differently every time. The first one was me holed up in my parents' attic with some cheap microphones for six months. The second EP was me in a different attic, but this one belonged to Ray Davies, and was then mixed by the keys player in the band, the great Joe Davison. Then for this one I decided to use the Family. So I demo'd all the tracks in my studio, the band all learned, tweaked, rewrote and improved all the parts, then we gutted Joe's studio, took it out to the countryside and recorded the whole thing in a week. 
Visually - sweat, glitter, sex, death, euphoria, fire and that roaring white light that fills your head when you get on stage and lose yourself completely. 
I wanted the EP to be a celebration of everything I think is important. The way my songs tend to work out is that they're hugely upbeat songs about very depressing things. So 'Chance It In The Fire' is about dealing with monstrous self-destructive impulses and keeping them at bay. 'Some Kind Of Hero' is a ons I wrote when someone I love more than life itself was going through a serious episode of depression. 'Get Well City' is a drinking song about going to rehab. 'Eddie Baby' is a sort of lament for all the band I used to play in the fell apart. And the title track, 'Kiss The Misfits', is a pretty self-explanatory statement of my beliefs. Get out of the fucking office, jump in with the freaks and weirdos. And let's dance. 

3. You celebrated your EP release with a headline show at The Monarch, Camden. How important do you think it is to keep small music pubs / venues alive and going and why?
Well. You could close all the supermarkets and people would starve. You could shut all the banks and people would starve. Shut all the venues? Then fucking hell. What have we got? Strictly Come Dancing? Fuck that. The people need music, and young people need to teat their souls out and hurl them at crowds in small towns across the country. They're the aura of culture, the shooting stars that camel out all the boring. And I built my whole life on the desire to go into them and yell. So folks, support your local venue. Because without them life is meaningless. 

Random Q:

Favourite day of the week?
Gig day. 

'Kiss The Misfits' Review:
'Kiss The Misfits' is a high energy, upbeat and feel good track. Whilst listening to the chorus, you are left with no choice but to sing / dance along. With an infectious and wonderful guitar section, and solid instrumentation throughout, the musicianship and positive spirit not only comes across in this song but in the video too. If you need cheering up, this is a must go-to song! I'm also sure that once you've heard once you'll be wanting to replay it again and again... 


Felix Hagan & The Family's Links:

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Monday, 23 November 2015

Feature: Nadine Khouri (23/11/15)


Nadine Khouri is a composer, musician, lyrical poet and singer. Lebanese-born but displaced by the civil war when she was young, Khouri moved to England with her family and later to New York, where she first began performing her songs in small clubs in the East Village. However, currently based in London and influenced by dream-pop, moody soundtracks and spoken-word, Nadine is set to release her forthcoming album in 2016 and the first track to be released is 'You Got A Fire'... 

General Questions:

1. How old were you when you started getting involved in music and how?
I got into music in a big way after discovering Elvis Presley as a child. My father had some rock'n'roll  music in the house, so I grew up listening to The Beatles, Hendrix, a lot of 60s music... I taught myself to play guitar by listening to records and working songs out by ear mostly. I think I started writing almost as soon as I figured out how to strum a chord! I only started performing the songs when I was living in New York in my early twenties and then in London when I moved back... A couple of years ago, I picked up the ukulele, harmonium and midi to get away from the guitar and ended up writing a lot of my album that way. 

2. What is the most inspiring musical performance you've ever seen?
It was some time ago, but I'd have to say Lhasa de Sela at the Jazz Cafe. There are few shows that have ever come close to that experience in my life. I felt she was able to make time stand still for the entire set. 

3. Who have you been listening to lately?
At the moment, I've been listening to London-based band Hejira, Eska, Xylouris White, Lou Reed, Giant Sand. 

3 Qs for Nadine:

1. What three countries would you most like to tour and why?
Ha! It's hard to narrow it down to three really, as I'd love to see as many places as possible. I'd love to tour in France as I speak the language and I've never spent a lot of time there. Japan would be amazing, as I imagine it to be very different to anything I've known and I'm inspired by a lot of its writers, film-makers etc. Maybe Norway or Sweden too; it'd be different to anything I'm familiar with and there's a lot of music I love that comes from there too. 

2. Who influences your sound and what inspires you lyrically?
In terms of influences, I really like records that sound like their own self-contained world. The first time I consciously paid any attention to sound production for its own sake is probably when I heard 'To Bring You My Love' by PJ Harvey. I loved the way that record sounds so intimate, minimal but also like its own sonic universe. Also, the Low albums - I love how they create so much with minimal means and the sound of stillness that comes through their albums. As a teenager I fell in love with Mazzy Star & Sparklehorse for their soundscapes too, so I'd say I love music that takes me someplace else. Lyrically, I'm inspired by all kinds of things - visuals, stories, places, memory, anything that leaves an impression. 

3. What process did you go through writing 'You Got A Fire' and does it differ from the other tracks on your forthcoming album?
I wrote and demoed the song fairly quickly, unlike some of the other songs on the album. It was still early days for me playing the ukulele and the part came together with the words and harmony. The process was different in that the track had been around for longer than the others, so Ruban Byrne (electric guitar, BVs) and J Allen (Wurlitzer, BVs) had been playing the song with me for a while; the version you hear on the album also includes Huw Bennett (double-bass), Jean-Marc Butty (drums) and John Parish (acoustic guitar, BVs). I think it was the starting point for the whole album in terms of how I imagined it would end up - minimal, but also spacey and warm. It's the first track written on the album, so I'm glad to be releasing it first. 

Random Q:

A song to listen to on a sunny / rainy day?
How about 'Take Fountain' by Tom Brosseau?

'You Got A Fire' Review:
This single is beautiful, 'You Got A Fire' is a haunting, harmony-filled song which is incredibly easy to listen to. Both the track and music video hold a mystical and atmospheric element, with gradual layers building throughout. You can understand the minimal idea behind this album and the warm, dreamy ideal has really worked well. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the album now! 


Nadine's Links:

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Friday, 20 November 2015

Feature: Spiritwo (20/11/15)


Spiritwo are Yael Claire Shahmoon (vocals), Charlie Cawood (guitars), Matt Riley (drums), Bob Leigh (drums), Michael Ogot (bass) and Julie Groves (flute). They are an alternative rock and electronica band who began life as the brainchild of visual artist Yael Claire Shahmoon in the clubs of Tel Aviv, they soon moved to London and have been working on creating a blend of experimental alternative rock and electro with cultivated Middle Eastern influences. I caught up with Yael Claire Shahmoon for a Q&A about their latest double a-side single 'Mesumamim / Face To Face'...

General Questions:

1. How old were you when you started getting involved in music and how?
When I became an animator - the sounds of my films where a huge importance... I then realised that music had a greater room in my life and started singing, around the ago of 29... 
For me, singing was like a new storytelling tool - a 'sound paintbrush' to create with, or, sculpturing with air - while breathing in and out - I felt I can make stories quicker that way and connect with more people in an immediate way... So I wrote my own music based on my lyrics and singing, and created my own shows with a theatric feel, as coming from a visual artistic field, it had to have also an aesthetic side. After a while - it also became a band ;-) 

2. What is the most inspiring musical performance you've ever seen? 
In recent years I got inspired seeing The Secret Chiefs 3 play - the first time I'd seen them had been 4 years ago - It was at London Garage and it made my jaw drop - They played their normal blend of Math Rock with influences of Iranian music, Indian Bollywood music, Black metal, and those Surfing Rock guitar riffs... and covers from iconic film composers like Bernard Herman to Classical composers, and Spaghetti Westerns... 
You got to see it LIVE to believe this - my ears were melting - I didn't know their albums and nobody prepared me for such high musicianship! 
The music is both crafted and complicated, and filled with musical humour and wit, whilst keeping an improvisational side too! The audience were all high on the music! And so did the band - guitarist Trey Spruance, (former of the bands Faith No More and Mr. Bungle) was jumping around with his guitar and smiling  to the audience whilst playing the most complicated tunes - it was like a circus of sounds - you wouldn't know what else these guys would pull out their cloaks! If you are a rock fan their show is a must!
It inspired me to go study world music more deeply, and start an MA in Mediterranean singing. I'm no longer 'feeling out' my way in those areas of music but have knowledge of what it is that I am doing. I got serious and deep about world music and about composition as a result.

3. Who have you been listening to lately?
As someone that had been involved in a few rock scenes, I just got an album from a friend's band in Tel Aviv - Tel Aviv Rock scene is filled with surprises, little gems of original music... Such band is DRY... The vocalist Dymitry Polikov sounds more mystic than Nick Cave in his preaching moments, the cellist Ran Nahmias made his own electronic cello instrument using a cello's bow and a wooden plate of effects and loops, and the drummer Itay Sandowski intensify their musical dynamics. The albums sounds like an atmospheric movie with strong colours and blurred characters being both trapped and totally free! The cello loops create a 'zen' balance to the theatrical feel of the lyrics... The first track 'Zvuv' ('a fly' in Hebrew) is the only track sang in Hebrew, with strong lyrics and cello riffs so haunting which set the mood to a totally exceptional work of music. (https://dontrepeatyourself.bandcamp.com)

A few months back a friend of mine sent me a track I loved - it was by the sound artist / producer Katie Gately, and it is filled with vocal / electronic sound landscapes and ideas... A track called 'Pivot' grabbed me - it is released on Fat Cat Records in the UK. Katie's production is spot on and the atmosphere is quirky, sensual and deep. Hmm... my kind of a woman! (http://www.katiegately.com/music/)

Another gem sent by a friend is 'Arthur and Punishment' - a heavy metal bassist called Tristan Shone - that became a 'one man band' when he engineered his own exclusive gear of 'dub machines'. He creates non compromising electronic tunes! My favourite is a track called 'Lonely'. I like musical inventions and I am attracted to the most extreme forms of sounds - I've been like that since I was a teen, and always happy to discover new musicians who manage to break all boundaries. (https://vimeo.com/15829164)

3 Qs for Spiritwo:

1. 'Mesumamim' means 'On Drugs' in Hebrew, what led you to this subject and what does the track mean to you?
I called it 'On Drugs' although I never really take drugs. 'Drugs' is used as a metaphor here. I was trying to talk about how sometimes we escape from life or, living life half numb, as if 'on drugs'. 
I have seen so many people that had been totally scared or overwhelmed with their urban life. They followed some escape mechanisms that they invented or took on themselves... Like, being drunk often, being a workaholic that does not enjoy anything else but an exhaustive grind, going to parties in order to forget yourself, or even going on a daily routine that is draining you without changing it 'cos it feels too much to handle when all you are trying to do is keep your head above water... 
The song is trying to capture that emotional neglect, but also remind us of togetherness and how we can overcome that by laughing about it all with our best friends, reminding ourselves it is just a phase, and not life itself. We have to unite with the people that we love, and connect ourselves with the flowing pace of nature, try to break free from whatever that is locking us. 

2. Where in the world would you most like to perform live and why?
I would love to perform in Japan - many people told me that the SPIRITWO Aesthetics - with the wild eclectic theatric appearance, together with the blend of rock, electronica and world music could work well over there - as there is audience that loves theatric qualities and very interested in exceptional foreign / cutting edge music in Japan. A booker from Japan actually approached me once after bumping into our music online, so maybe one day... one can hope ;) 

3. What process did you go through creating your latest single 'Mesumamim' and how did it differ to other tracks of yours? 
The song is about some kind of emotional neglect, so when I was designing the electronic drums, I designed a snare that will sound like a gun shot - a 'slapping' menace of self damage... hinting something suicidal... 
I have also asked Charlie Cawood, who plays many world music string instruments - to put some Arabic Oud in the song, to have a deep, 'heartfelt' sad tone to it... but he chose the Turkish Saz... that has a 'lighter' higher pitch... 
So I think we ended up with wide sound landscapes, a bit of 'Sahara' with my Mediterranean singing style... a bit of 'Nevada' with a romantic void of a distant gun shot... 
Image wise, I remembered my first ever SPIRITWO shoot with Frankie Eden in 2006 - in those times, I have performed live in big queer underground events in Tel Aviv with a huge wig and latex dresses (before Lady Gaga came around, of course) posing pure decadence and glamorous witchcraft...
I decided I can re-use the images and collide them with amazing nature landscapes shot by photographer Jon Bagge - creating a clash between beautiful natural things existing in the world - and how we might miss them being out of touch... 
So, in the video we mixed the images up by putting some slugs on a bed, plotting up a sense of absence, emotional blindness and then - jumping into heartening brightness of nature pictures in time lapse... and... of course, a splash of water, to make the drama more wet!! 
I think 'Mesumamim' is defiantly a 'We Dessert Hardcore Zen song' :) 
It is a very deep tune, and that is actually something that exists in other tracks that I have been writing over the years... 
The difference is in how many skills developed in terms of production, and how I try to combine more Mediterranean feel in the music, how my voice can introduce both Arabic singing techniques whilst keeping it in a frame of a rock ballad concept. I am becoming better in crafting the two over time, whilst coming up with a sound that is unique to us. 

Random Q:

Why / how did the name 'Spiritwo' come about?
Oh, well,, it describes the 'second spirit' that comes out of us when we are on stage! 
That wild side in a performer that reveals itself in a live situation, and sometimes can't be noticed in everyday life. 
In everyday life, some people look so normal, reserved, or even shy - and then you see them on stage - and you wonder where was all this energy hiding?? - The 'second', 'other' spirit in them got unleaded! ;) I think we all have that, and when have the right platform - we can convey traits that we don't usually show! That is of course a good thing - that release - that place that you can express everything you've got. 

'Mesumamim' Review:
'Mesumamim' is an intense and dark track despite the upbeat tone; the irraticness of the Turkish Saz and definite drum beat highlights this. It's really refreshing to hear a great alternative rock / electronica track being influenced and including world music too. This is an inspiring creative wonder  and I'm more than sure (and hopeful) there's going to be more fantastic work coming from Spiritwo in the future... 



Spiritwo's Links:
'Mesumamim' (Bandcamp): http://spiritwo.bandcamp.com

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